November as a month of Remembrance:
For Catholics around the world, November is a month to remember those who have left this world and to pray for all souls in purgatory who have not yet attained the joys of heaven. Here at St Edmund Arrowsmith, November brings with it a change in the weather, the darker mornings and evenings, the falling leaves and a distinct change in the general atmosphere – it is the perfect month to contemplate and remember those we have loved and lost. There are many ways in school that we honour this month of remembrance and we hope that this article written by our Year 9 pupils gives you a little idea of how we join our Catholic brothers and sisters across the globe in praying for the dead.
Our month of remembrance began with our school Mass on the 1st November for the feast of All Saints. This year, mass was held in the school hall and was attended by staff, students, governors, friends and family members. It was a wonderful way to centre ourselves at the end of a busy school day and remind ourselves of the sacrifices and lives of the many saints that are important to the Catholic Church. This Mass is always one of our favourites as we sing hymns that we don’t usually sing throughout the rest of the school year, such as ‘For all the Saints’ and it’s just generally a really nice atmosphere of reverence and respect. This really sets the focus for the month ahead.
Catholics dedicate the 2nd November to All Souls where we remember all our loved ones who have gone before us. On this day we pray that their souls may find rest in heaven with the Lord our God. This year All Souls Day fell on a Saturday and we weren’t in school, but Maria our school chaplain reminded us of the story of the ‘Water bugs and Dragonflies’ that we used during our Morning Prayer service last year for All Souls Day. In this short story we hear how sad the water bugs are when their friends and family move on up to the ‘other life’ and become dragonflies. But eventually all the water bugs move on and are reunited with their friends that went before them. The story is a metaphor for our lives here on earth – there will be times when we lose people we love and they will go to heaven, but our faith tells us not to be lost in grief because we will all be reunited once again in God’s Kingdom.
On the 11th November we participated in our annual Remembrance Service which marked 101 years since the end of the First World War. Our service began with the two minutes silence at 11am which was observed by the entire school. Our armed service cadets saluted the school cross and it was such a powerful act to witness. The two minutes silence was then followed by one of our deputy head girls Kate Kilbane who played The Last Post. This was one of the most powerful moments we’ve experienced as everyone fell silent as the almost chilling sound washed over us. We then heard prayers and scripture readings led by staff and students which really helped us to reflect on the devastation of war. During this time, a representative from each form laid a handmade poppy wreath at the foot of the cross. The wreaths were made up of individual poppies that every member of the school community had written on with a short prayer or message for those who had lost their lives in battle. The forms had spent the last week reflecting on war and the importance of remembering the sacrifice of service men and women throughout history which made the wreaths all the more personal. The service really was a moving experience.
In addition this, the school community made a really big effort this year to honour our fallen soldiers by creating a number of displays around school. Our favourite ones include the display on the door of Pupil Services which was lovingly made by Miss Kelly and the one in the chapel which just happened to be made by ourselves. We aren’t biased at all!
November and Beyond
As a school we remember the deceased in many other ways in addition to our services in November and beyond. During the month there are many Saints feast days which we learn about and pray for in Morning Prayer in the chapel. We also have a prayer board and prayer box all year round for everyone to write the name of a person who they wish to be prayed for. Throughout the rest of the year we often say prayers for those who have died for example, if someone in our class or school community has passed away we will always say an ‘eternal rest’ and pray for the families and those who are left behind.
In year ten, all students get the opportunity to come down to the chapel to take part in a spirituality lesson with Maria on the theme of remembrance. The lesson is more of a service where we reflect on how Catholics remember loved ones who have died. This is always such a reflective hour and each student gets to spend a part of their day in quiet contemplation that they may otherwise not have gotten. Some of the older pupils who experienced these services last year told us that this hour was such an important part of their school experience last year as they had never before allowed themselves the time out of the day to sit quietly in the chapel and think about their loved ones – this is something we would like to encourage all pupils to do more of going forward.
A Special Month
We truly do believe that November is a special month for us. The school provides us with an opportunity to think and reflect in a way that is compassionate and understanding. Many of us in school have faced the death of a loved one and many of our families have been affected by wars both old and new and so dedicating this month in the way that we do is certainly cherished by all here at St Edmund Arrowsmith.
By Isabel H 9B and Megan B 9O